Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Faith Essentials: Creativity

(Welcome to Conversations with Bob! If we were a TV show, we would win an Emmy--or at least look darn snappy at the awards show!)

Bob and I are discussing faith essentials. I have suggested that gratitude, awe, and compassion are faith essentials. I will add another today, creativity.

Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness...'

So what does it mean to be created in the image of God? Many things have been proposed to lift up a certain quality of humankind as a divine reflection. Perhaps our capacity to love, reason, make moral choices, be conscious of ourselves, and even create and destroy are mirror images of the Divine.

I am not concerned at this point about interpreting that text or that phrase as much as I am curious about the human capacity to create and destroy. Matthew Fox considers creativity as one of the four spiritual paths along with awe, letting go, and transformation.

No one can deny that humankind is a creative bunch. We have created religion, writing, cathedrals, mobile homes, and race cars. We have created rocket ships and hearing aids, the Mona Lisa and prison cells, nuclear missiles and water purifiers.

We have domesticated animals (is that not creative?), genetically engineered tomatoes, irrigated deserts, and blown glass. Apple cider and Agent Orange are the fruits of our creativity. We have created sonnets and submarines, dictatorships and democracy, television and teletubbies.

No wonder YHWH despaired from the heavens:

‘...this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.'

We even created the gods (or at least names and tales for them) who in turn create us. We are creative. Let's admit it. We have creative power at our disposal. Perhaps it was the evolution of creativity and opposable thumbs that turned us into the top chimps on Earth (at least for awhile). Creativity is the essence of humanity. Since creativity is a product of evolution, we could also think of it as the essence of evolution. Is it the essence of faith?

I suggest that the best meaning of faith is trust. I trust my physician to give the best advice and care. I have faith in her. Do we trust in our creativity? I say yes. Why?

We have no choice. We are creative and will not stop being creative for good or ill. It is not good for us to deny our creative power or to project creativity onto God and leave it there. To do so is to hand over our responsibility. Creativity is, from a theological point of view, an aspect of the divine image. It is therefore a gift. It is a gift to be cherished, nurtured, celebrated, made sacred, and (dare I say?) harnessed, for good.

Creativity and the harness do not seem to go together. Which is why I chose that image. With creativity comes responsibility. I trust in the creativity of humankind, which is the creativity of the Universe, which is the reflection of the Divine image. But it is not the only reflection.

As Bob said, the essentials of faith are not in isolation but weave to form a quilt. Creativity threads its way with awe, gratitude, and compassion. There are more threads as well.